[ilds] RG Justine 1.13 -- Jamais de la vie

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Thu Apr 26 13:17:01 PDT 2007

On 4/26/2007 3:14 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:

> My French is terrible, but I thought "jamais de la vie" was more or 
> less equivalent to English, "not on your life!"  Perhaps French 
> speakers can comment.  David?  I never understood how that idiom came 
> to be the name of a perfume and still don't.
> Bruce

So if the name of the perfume comes through as something like "never in 
my life" or "no way" or "a month of Sundays" or "not on your life," what 
does that say about Justine?  about Darley?

I think that it really matters.  In the BL  typescript for /Justine/, LD 
carefully calculates and calibrates every ending of these early 
paragraphs. (Note how many paragraphs and episodes end with a dying 
fall, many of which were additions in ink to the typescript.)

Michael touches upon the perfume in his /Alexandria: City of Memory/, 
and I will also point us to what William L. Godshalk tells us about 
other Durrellian characters who wore the same scent:

> /Sebastian: Or, Ruling Passions/: Searches and Failures
> William L. Godshalk
> /Twentieth Century Literature/, Vol. 33, No. 4, Lawrence Durrell 
> Issue, Part II. (Winter, 1987), pp.
> 536-549.

> And when things do work, it is not the result of rational planning.
> The cure of Affad's apparently autistic son is a case in point. Constance
> rejects the use of kittens and toys. "It is not," she claims, "just a 
> question
> of motor response one is looking for, but a reaction at a deeper level,
> which can only come from inside himself. How can we help that?" (69).
> Her last question remains unanswered-until, inadvertently, Constance
> wears a perfume called Jamais de la Vie (i.e., "absolutely not," or in
> modern slang, "no way"). It turns out to be the scent worn by the child's
> mother, and Constance theorizes: "perhaps this is what had given her
> such an immediate associative transference with the child" (85). She's

> not sure. So much for her deliberate plan "to break his psychic reverie"
> (71). Failure of nerve, mistaken identity, fortuitous action, the
> non-rational and the irrational-these are central to the novel.


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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